Projecting the Qualifying Countries for the Paris Olympics: 2023 World Championship Analysis

As the sailing world eagerly awaits the 2023 Sailing World Championship, the excitement is palpable, as this event serves as a pivotal moment in determining which countries will earn their berths for the prestigious Paris Olympics in 2024. With the French team automatically qualifying as the host nation, the top 10 countries in the championship ranking will also secure their places. In this article, we delve into the participating teams and categorize them into four groups: “Almost a lock to get in,” “Likely to qualify,” “On the bubble,” and “Longshots.”

Almost a Lock

  1. Netherlands: Bart Lambriex and Floris Van De Werken, reigning world champions, have been on a remarkable winning streak. With victories in the last two world championships and the recent Test Event, they are virtually assured of their qualification. Consistently ranked in the top 10 countries in the past 12 months, they are a force to be reckoned with.
  2. Spain: Diego Botin and Florian Trittel, strong contenders for a medal, finished second at the previous world championship. The Spaniards just won their first ever Sail GP event, but have been off the boil a bit lately in 49er. Their overall skill and experience should see them through.

This is a good time to remember Spanish 49er qualifying for 2020. In the days leading up to the Aarhus Sailing World Championship in 2018, the Spanish quad headed out on a training run, late in the day after arriving that morning. The three boats were locked in with each other on a tuning run and sailed across the shipping lane, forcing the high speed ferry to stop early to avoid running into them. The penalty was to start the regatta with a DSQ from the first race for each of the three teams involved, essentially ruining the chance for Spain to qualify for Tokyo. None of those teams made gold fleet and Botin was forced to qualify in Auckland a year later. This story serves a reminder that teams get all sort of odd penalties at World Sailing events, and 2023 is not likely to be different.

  1. New Zealand: Following the retirement of legendary sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, New Zealand has demonstrated a legacy of excellence. Teams like Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie, along with Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn, have consistently performed among the top 10 countries in recent regattas. This legacy makes New Zealand a strong contender for Olympic qualification.
  2. Poland: Dominik Buksak and Szymon Wierzbicki have shown remarkable potential in international competitions, leading the charge for Poland. What makes Poland a lock, however is they have three teams that could each be in the top 10 countries, with two time Junior World Champions and 2021 European Champions Mikolaj Staniul with Jakub Sztorch. They also have the veteran of the fleet, Lukasz Przybytek with new crew Jacek Piasecki. Each of these three teams could secure theberth for Poland, moving them into the lock category.

Likely to Qualify

Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Test Event, Marseille, France. Training Day 8th July 2023.

Several nations are likely to qualify for the Paris Olympics based on their past results and performances:

  1. Great Britain: James Peters and Fynn Sterrit have demonstrated competitive prowess, placing Great Britain in a favorable position for Olympic qualification. They have been very consistent this year, but are the only British team likely to be in a contending position, leaving a bit of chance for the only nation that qualified in all 10 events in the first round for 2020.
  2. Croatia: Brothers Šime and Mihovil Fantela’s capabilities make Croatia a likely candidate to qualify for the Paris Olympics. They finished fourth at the Test Event and Bronze at the 2022 World Championship, as well as winning the 2018 World Championship, so clearly have the pedigree. Sime is the 2016 470 Gold medal winner as well, so high pressure events are when these two thrive. They were off the pace at Palma and Hyeres this year so will have to be on their game to secure their Paris berth.
  3. USA: The American squad has three teams with top 10 potential heading into the qualifier. Ian Barrows and Hans Henken have been in the top 10 countries at three of the four important regattas in the past 12 months, and have all the skills needed to keep that up. They are closely chased by Andrew Mollerus and Ian MacDiarmid, possesses talent and determination, positioning them well for an Olympic spot. Finally, Nevin Snow and Mac Agnese have also show top 10 form from time to time, meaning the USA has three good shots at getting the job done.
Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Test Event, Marseille, France. Day 7 Race Day on 15th July 2023.

On the Bubble

The following teams have a chance to qualify, but the competition is fierce, and not all will secure their spots. For those keenly able to count to ten, you’ll notice we’re already there. It shows how competitive the 49er sailing scene is, and how those that win here can win anywhere.

Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Test Event, Marseille, France. Day 3 Race Day on 11th July 2023.
  1. Denmark: The retirement of Jonas Warrer, 2008 Gold medalist, Frederick Rask has stepped in with Olympic crew, Jakob Precht Jensen. The pair were hot in 2021 and 2022, but haven’t had their best season so far in 2023. Worlds should be their chance to turn that around.
  2. Germany: Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel have retired with their back to back Bronze medals, but the German squad remains strong with Meggendorfer/Spranger or Stingele/Scheel able to contend in 2023.
  3. Switzerland – Schneiter and de Planta just had their best result in a 49er, with a Bronze at the test event. Can they hold that form?
  4. Uruguay – Hernan Umpierre and Fernando Diz are the best team nobody has heard of yet. The youngsters moved to Barcelona to study and sail as much as possible, and often break into the top 10 when they are on it. They are the least experienced team in contention, however, so have a lot to prove.
  5. Australia – The Australian squad came out in 2023 with dominant form in Palma taking two of the top five spots. Jim Colley with Shawn Connor are their most consistent top performers, but the teams have also seen a lot of interchanging with their partnerships and some inconsistent results meaning they could qualify, but it could all go badly just as easily
  6. Austria – Veteran Ben Bildstein and David Hussl continue to campaign diligently. They have been in the top 10 at every worlds since 2017, but haven’t totally bounced back to contending form after a long break post Tokyo. Is this their time to ramp it up or are they on the denouement of their 49er careers?
  7. Italy – Two veteran teams each have a shot at the top ten, but would have to sail at their peak.
  8. Ireland – Robert Dixon and Sean Waddilove are at times right at the front of the action, but are also highly inconsistent. Will we see them at their best?
  9. China – Zaidling Wen and Tian Liu broke onto the 49er scene with a ninth at the 2022 Worlds and followed that up with a top 10 in Palma. Been a bit tougher going lately for them but they have all the skills to make the top 10 again.
  10. Belgium – New crew for veteran helm Yannick Lefebvre and Jan Heunnick. The pair were on fire at times at the Test Event, but also found themselves at the back of the fleet other times. They’ll need a good run of form to get a spot.
Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Test Event, Marseille, France. Day 7 Race Day on 15th July 2023.


  1. Japan – Japan has three teams in the running, with returning Olympians Leo Takahashi and Tim Morishima back together. They haven’t shown form recently of what they put together ahead of Tokyo from time to time but have the pedigree to qualify.
  2. Brazil – Two-time Olympian Marco Grael is back at it, and could surprise.
  3. Argentina – The Contessi brothers have pulled together good races, but not top finishes yet. They’ll need a lot to go right to score their first top 10.
  4. Finland – This would be a reach for the young team, but they often make gold fleet and that would give them a chance at a great day to move into the medal race.
  5. Canada – New duo Moffat and Wood scored a top 10 in Kiel, but would need similar heroics against a much tougher fleet to repeat that in the Hague
  6. Norway – Young Mathias Berthet won everything there is to win in 29er, but he’s new into his 49er career and this likely isn’t yet his time.
Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Test Event, Marseille, France. Day 4 Race Day on 12th July 2023.


The 2023 Sailing World Championship holds immense significance for countries vying to compete in the Paris Olympics. As the French team already secures their place as hosts, the top 10 countries in the championship ranking will join them in this prestigious event. With the Netherlands, Spain, and New Zealand emerging as “Almost a lock to get in,” their sailing prowess and consistent performances make them the frontrunners for qualification.

The depth of 49er racing is unparalleled in sailing, and this preview only shows how tough the competition is. Undoubtedly, there will be numerous upsets as teams compete for spots in Paris. The impact of who qualifies has quite a few ripple effects too. Since continental qualification is the next step, with only one spot per continent, the impact of the USA, Uruguay, China, and Australia grabbing spots now and leaving spots vacant at their home qualifier is massive for the rest of the teams in their continents.

The 2023 World Championship is poised to deliver unparalleled excitement and anticipation, and the sailing community will be on the edge of their seats as the fate of these remarkable athletes unfolds. Let us come together to support these sailors on their journey to secure their place at the Paris Olympics and showcase the ultimate celebration of sailing excellence on the world stage.

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